On Tuesday, Aug. 28, in West Hollywood’s Sunset Tower Hotel, Variety Magazine honored comedian Pete Davidson, musician Shawn Mendes, and actress Amandla Stenberg at their annual Power of Young Hollywood event. The event serves to bring light to the achievements and influences of the younger generation of Hollywood. Variety also recognized Riverdale actress, Lili Reinhart, for her activism on body positivity and mental health awareness, with the H&M Conscious Award.
At just twenty years old, comedian, Pete Davidson, was one of the youngest cast members in the history of Saturday Night Live. Although not in attendance, Davidson was one of the honorees at the Power of Young Hollywood event. Now at twenty-four, Davidson has continued to serve as a cast member on the popular late night comedy special for the past four years, and has used his painful life experiences as inspiration for his work. At age seven, Davidson’s father, a firefighter, lost his life in the attacks on 9/11. Since then, Davidson has struggled with mental illness and suicidal ideations. He uses his personal life in his stand-up comedy and appearances on Saturday Night Live’s “Weekend Update,” where he has spoken about his father’s death, his drug use, and his struggle with mental health. Most recently, Davidson has been in the public spotlight for his engagement to pop singer, Ariana Grande. Despite all this fame and popularity, in his interview with Variety Magazine, Davidson told a fan, “I’m not a celebrity.”
Beginning by posting six second singing videos on Vine, twenty year-old Canadian musician, Shawn Mendes was also honored at Variety’s Power of Young Hollywood. Much like another young Canadian musician, Justin Bieber, Mendes was discovered by his manager, Andrew Gertler, via YouTube. By early 2014, Mendes had already accrued four thousand followers on Twitter and almost one million followers on Vine. Gertler told Variety, “he was so inquisitive and willing to learn. That humility — ‘How do I do this?’ — told me this is a once-in-a-lifetime artist, that this kid is going to do anything in his power to be great.” At fifteen, Mendes’ first single “Life of the Party” hit number one on the iTunes chart. After opening for several artists, such as Taylor Swift, Mendes began touring as a headliner, and released his second album “Illuminate.” As for Mendes’ personal life, Mendes told Variety, “I want to push myself to my limit of what I can handle and play as many shows and write as many songs as I can and fly around the world 10,000 times in a year, pushing myself to the point where it seems crazy.”
In 2012, then fourteen year-old actress, Amandla Stenberg broke through into Hollywood’s critical eye as Rue in the “The Hunger Games.” Immediately facing racially based criticism for her role, Stenberg has continued to work as an actress and activist. Since her breakthrough role, Stenberg has been increasingly active about using her platform and influence to call attention to the need for diversity and representation in Hollywood. When Marvel approached her for an audition for the role of Shuri in “Black Panther,” Stenberg ultimately decided to abandon her pursuit of the role. As a biracial actress, Stenberg saw the importance of young dark-skinned girls seeing themselves represented in a place of power on the big screen. Stenberg told Variety, “That was not a space that I should have taken up.” Stenberg works to increase diversity seen on the silver screen. Her role in the film, “The Darkest Minds,” was originally written as white. Stenberg told Variety that it was important that the standard dystopian narrative was now being told through the eyes of a black woman. This past summer, Stenberg also came out as gay, telling Variety, “I wanted to be transparent about who I was and stand with pride and hopefully, through that, make other people feel proud of their identities.” Stenberg also stands with the Time’s Up movement, and will only sign onto projects where half of the crew on sets are non-white and female.
At Power of Young Hollywood, Variety reported many young influencers mingling and enjoying themselves while honoring the achievements of their peers.